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Asian Swamp Eels Anybody?

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Last week I told you about my latest hunt for the Burmese pythons while filming the pilot episode of a new Adventure series I’m producing for the Carbon TV network, Invasion Everglades.  Our show isn’t strictly about the pythons, but rather each of the seventy-two species of invasive animals plaguing our native ecosystems.  One of those species, we stumbled onto accidentally, was the Asian swamp eel.  

My first hunt of the weekend, I was accompanied by co-host Meghan Bieberle and our professional hosts, Myron “Python Cowman” Looker of the South Florida Water Management District and Matthew “Python Swampman” Kogo of the Florida Wildlife Commission.  Both of these gentlemen are licensed and experienced python eradication contractors and are fantastic gentlemen to just sit and visit with.  Sadly, my film crew was delayed, so it was just the foursome out in the Southeastern edge of the Glades when I spotted a large eel in crystal, clear knee-deep water alongside the roadway.  Matt identified the eel as the non-native Asian swamp eel and asked if we’d like a closer look.  Meghan assured him that we would, and in no time, Matt was off the levee and wading out to capture the first of the species I had ever seen.  

That’s also when the fun began…. turns out, to no great surprise, that eels are remarkably difficult to grasp.  He chased that eel, splashing and splashing amongst shout of directions from those of us in the dry seats until he finally cornered it against the bank and gave it a flip-up and onto dry ground.  Lots of photos ensued, it was quickly bagged and the hunt for another began.  

These eels were introduced into the wilds of South Florida via the pet trade; aquariums being illegally dumped into roadside canals.  Over many years, the population has exploded.  They have a few natural predators, yet they reproduce far faster than the toll predation takes upon their numbers and the enormous population of the Asian swamp eel is feeding heavily upon native fish.  The average size of one of these adult eels is approximately thirty inches in length and in the neighborhood of eight ounces in weight.  

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The Asian swamp eel has a few other names you may hear them called, such as rice eel or white eel, but by whatever name they are called, I was delighted to discover…. They’re delicious!  Back in their native country, they’re served as a delicacy in many restaurants and I would love to see that market develop here in Florida.  That could be a great way to begin limiting the impact of the species upon our native fish.  If you find yourself in a position to give them a try, I’ve got a great eel and shrimp stir fry recipe I’ll share with you.      

Our time filming the invasive species found in our Everglades has made for some great memories and I can’t wait to get back to the land of the Seminoles and do it all again.  You can bet I’ll tell you all about it when I do and as always, if you have any feedback, give me a shout at [email protected].  God Bless and Good Hunting!


Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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